Every pupil in the school studies English until the end of 5th Year, and Drama until the end of 2nd Year. They are presented for English at Standard Grade and Higher, and Drama is an option at both levels. Advanced Higher English and Drama are also available in 6th Year.
The Department aims to lay the foundations that will ensure success in public examinations through its teaching from Transitus level onwards. But its broader aims are to educate all pupils to become good communicators, who know how to listen and want to understand, who can read and make sense of any written document, using reference books such as dictionaries appropriately, and who express themselves both orally and in writing with confidence, using the language accurately and imaginatively.
In addition, we hope to inspire a genuine interest in literature and love of reading, with an ability to appreciate good writing and recognise its qualities, and to encourage an awareness of how language works and can be used as a creative medium.
TRANSITUS TO SECOND YEAR
During their early years in the Senior School, from Transitus through to 2nd Year, we aim to lay the foundations which will ensure success for all pupils in Standard Grade and Higher examinations. Above and beyond this, however, our aims are to develop pupils’ understanding of language, their ability to use it effectively in both spoken and written forms and their love of and enthusiasm for English language and literature.
In relation to a Curriculum for Excellence, we aim to give pupils the appropriate skills to become confident and active contributors to their wider community while also taking an active role in their own learning process. Through the study and discussion of good literature, they will also be encouraged to take an informed and responsible attitude towards the major issues that affect our society.
In Transitus and 1st Year, pupils are taught English in their form classes. They have six periods of English per week in Transitus and five in 1st Year. Usually they are taught by the same teacher for all of these periods.
In addition, in Transitus and 1st Year, a co-operative teacher assists the main teacher for one period per week.
In 2nd Year, pupils are placed into teaching streams specifically for English, with an upper stream of two classes, a lower stream of two classes and a middle group of one class. We aim to place each pupil in a group appropriate to his or her ability and potential. Groups will vary slightly in size and in the pace at which work is covered, but the same course is covered by all groups. Classes in the lower streams will be smaller, allowing the pupils in these classes to have more individual support from their teachers. Second Year pupils have four periods of English per week, all taught by the same teacher, plus a single period for half of the session in their House groups which will be used to study discursive writing and to develop library-based research and critical thinking skills.
Strands of the Course
The English course is structured in accordance with the three organisers of CfE: Reading, Writing and Listening &Talking.
We aim to ensure that pupils can read and understand the written language in a range of different forms and can begin to develop an appreciation of how writers create effects through their choices of words and structures and their use of figures of speech.
We also aim to develop and maintain the habit of reading for pleasure for all pupils.
Extended Reading of novels, plays and poetry in class, discussing them and writing about them, will form the heart of our course. This will also include some reading and discussion of non-fiction material such as newspaper articles. Often, this form of Reading can lead to thematic investigations of particular issues, such as prejudice or bullying, and this can lead to links with other subjects. In First Year, pupils study the novel Private Peaceful in English during the first term and this is linked to thematically linked work in the pupils’ Drama classes.
In addition, we teach the skills required for Close Reading in examinations. This is where pupils read a passage of previously unseen literature and answer questions designed to test their understanding of it and their ability to analyse it. School examinations always include a test of this kind and cohort practices are set regularly.
A further important part of our teaching of Reading is the Personal Study. This is where pupils are asked to reflect on a book they have read in their own time and express their views on it in some form. This requires pupils to think responsibly about their own abilities and to negotiate a suitable choice with the class teacher. It helps them to grow in confidence as they are given a chance to make decisions about the texts they are going to study.
In Transitus and 1st Year, Personal Studies are completed once in the Christmas Term, and once in the Easter Term. The writing is done in class, but pupils can prepare their review by making notes at home. They will be given guidance on how to plan ahead and prepare appropriate notes, and this offers further opportunities for pupils to take responsibility for their own work and learning. In 2nd Year, Personal Studies are completed in class in the Christmas Term and at home in the Easter Term. In the Summer Term, all pupils present a spoken Study. Worksheets offering guidance on the completion of Personal Studies are issued to pupils and it is appropriate and helpful for parents to discuss this work with their sons and daughters while they are planning it.
In addition, Transitu pupils participate in the Personal Reading Programme during the Spring Term. This involves pupils, in discussion with their class teachers, putting together a programme of reading for the term and then carrying out that programme, producing a post card about each book as it is finished. This is not formally assessed, but allows pupils to further develop their planning, negotiation and decision-making skills while also encouraging regular reading.
A book list with suggested titles and authors is issued to all pupils, but is not intended to be comprehensive. We welcome the reading of books and authors not on this list (including for Personal Study and Personal Reading Programme work) although we would ask that pupils show their teacher any book on which they plan to write before they begin detailed work on it, negotiating in a sensible manner regarding this choice. Mrs Grimmond, the school Librarian, can also give advice on appropriate reading material and we would encourage all pupils to make full use of the school Library, which has an excellent Junior Fiction section.
Pupils in Transitus to 2nd Year should be reading at least one book per month.
Pupils will write in many different forms as part of their English course and they should be trying to develop the style of their written expression and their awareness of appropriate registers for different tasks.
They will also work on improving the technical accuracy of their writing in terms of spelling, punctuation and the use of paragraphing to create structure and shape. Occasionally they might be asked to complete exercises to support this. Literacy is a central concern of CfE and our language course has been revised and expanded over recent sessions to provide a suitable foundation for continuing progress.
Writing assignments will often be linked to the Extended Reading being undertaken in class and a number of initiatives are being developed with other subjects in order to place Writing in a suitably broad context. For example, in the Summer Term, Transitus pupils study the Wars of Independence in History and spend a day at Bothwell Castle. Following this, they spend two weeks in English writing descriptively on the outing and then developing a piece of historical fiction.
As they move through the junior stages, there is a growing emphasis on three main types of Writing:
Personal Writing - writing about their own experiences, with the focus on thoughts and feelings.
Imaginative Writing - imaginative prose fiction.
Discursive Writing - presenting factual information and arguments on issues.
There is always a Writing test as part of school examinations and regular practice in writing under controlled conditions is given. Other writing assignments might be completed partly or wholly at home, supported by the use of resources such as dictionaries. It is appropriate and helpful for parents to discuss pupils’ writing with them. Pupils are also encouraged to use word-processing instead of handwriting for some assignments, but handwritten pieces are also always acceptable and it is important that pupils at this stage continue to develop their handwriting skills.
Listening and Talking:
Discussion, both as a whole class and in small groups, is a very important part of pupils’ work in English. As well as helping them to expand their understanding, it also helps them to develop the skills of listening carefully to others and responding appropriately, voicing their own ideas with confidence and learning to discuss and reflect upon their own learning. It also gives them appropriate skills to contribute effectively to society once they leave school.
In addition, pupils will be asked regularly to present Individual Talks in English. These will sometimes be prepared at home and, again, the support of parents is helpful, especially if they will listen to practice. Talks should be presented from brief notes rather than read from a full script, and developing the skill of preparing such notes and using them effectively is an important part of the course. The poise and confidence that practice of Individual Talk brings are invaluable in the broader development of pupils as individuals and as contributors within the school community.
Talk is also used to link with work done in other subjects. For example, in Transitus, pupils combine Junior Science work on Endangered Species with Discussion and Individual Talk work in English, eventually producing a Balloon Debate in which six different animals debate which should be allowed to survive.
Knowledge About Language
To help develop their skills in all strands of the subject, and to ensure a solid foundation for CfE Literacy across the Curriculum, pupils undertake the study of Language alongside other parts of the course in Transitus and 1st Year.
In Transitus, they learn about Parts of Speech and in 1st Year they focus on Figures of Speech and Sentence Building. They will participate in exercises that combine a number of media, including Smartboard, discussion work and differentiated worksheets. Some of this will be completed in the class, but other work will have to be done at home and, again, parental support is appreciated.
There is also a Transitus Spelling Course which aims to give pupils a good knowledge of the various spelling rules and the tools to bring about ongoing improvements in their own spelling. A booklet will be issued which pupils should retain for future years.
In addition, pupils maintain a Vocabulary Book in which they record new terms from all of their subjects, with correct spellings and definitions, and also words which they regularly misspell.
Marking and Assessment
Formative assessment is central to our junior pupils’ progress and will be the foundation upon which continuing progress is built. At the same time, much of the work will be given a summative grade to indicate the extent of any progress.
We use marking grids which build upon the general Experiences and Outcomes of CfE and identify a number of criteria for any exercise within the three organisers.
These criteria allow the teacher and pupil to identify Next Steps that will allow continuing progress in similar exercise. Pupils will record these Next Steps on Pupil Profile Forms and these forms will be shown to parents after each piece of completed work is returned to the pupils. Parents must sign the forms to show that they have seen their child’s work and that they understand the steps that have been recommended. This allows parents to have an ongoing overview of their children’s progress throughout the session.
Marking of written assignments will also include the indication of errors of spelling, punctuation etc., using a range of symbols of which pupils are given a list.
Central to the teaching of English is the use of peer assessment in class. Pupils will be given many opportunities to discuss their work and the work of their peers with the intention of identifying Next Steps for further progress. Often this form of assessment will come during the early stages of ‘works in progress’ with a final piece of work being assessed more formally by the class teacher.
Assessment and Report grades are based on a group of key pieces of work which will have been completed by the whole cohort. Pupils are encouraged to discuss their progress with their teacher and time can be set aside for one-to-one discussion of individual pieces of work.
Some indication is given above of the kind of work pupils might be expected to complete at home. They will be expected to do about one hour of English homework per week in Transitus and First Year, and possibly one and a half hours in Second Year.
Smaller homework assignments, such as a short passage of Reading or a Grammar Exercise, might be set for completion by the next day. For longer assignments, such as the preparation of a Personal Study, deadlines for completion will be given well in advance and pupils will be guided in working steadily towards them.
Important dates will be published on the school’s VLE and it is very helpful if parents are aware of these deadlines and support pupils in their preparation for them, to avoid stress when deadlines draw close. There should never be any need for panic or long hours of work for English on a single night. However, parents should contact their son’s or daughter’s teacher, or the Principal Teacher, if this appears to be the case.
Most pupils are presented for Higher Grade English and Communication at the end of 5th Year, and the Department aims to prepare them thoroughly for all elements of this examination. If specific pupils are clearly finding the course too challenging, they will be given the option of completing Intermediate 2 at this stage, sitting Higher in 6th Year.
In the Higher course, we hope to build on the skills developed through Transitus to 4th Year and to continue to inspire an interest in literature and language.
By the end of the course, pupils should be able to:-
Pupils continue to be taught in the same sets as in 3rd and 4th Year, usually with the same teacher. There may be some mixing up of sets and some choice with regard to the study of the novel in the Christmas Term.
Seven periods of English per week are allocated, including one triple period and at least one double period.
Individual teachers are given some freedom to plan their own courses as with other year-groups, but because the content of the course is not easily fitted into the time available, and because of the rigid nature of the internal assessment requirements, a basic structure is adhered to for all sets as outlined below.
Course Content and Resources
The following structure has been devised to ensure an appropriate allocation of time to each aspect of the course:-
First draft of Discursive Writing piece (started in June of 4th Year).
Completion of Close Reading NAB (if not completed in June of 4th Year).
Study of Drama Text.
First draft of Personal/ Imaginative Writing piece.
Completion of Textual Analysis NAB.
Study of Prose Text.
Redrafting of both Writing pieces.
Prelim Examination in January - to include Close Reading Test and two Critical Essays, reflecting the format of the final SQA Examination.
Study of set Poetry.
Continued Close Reading and Critical Essay practice.
Continuing practice of examination skills.
Second Prelim Examination in April.
Pupils who do not achieve pass standard at the first attempt in internal tests
( Textual Analysis, Personal Study, Close Reading and Writing) will be given additional support and opportunities to re-sit as considered appropriate by individual teachers in consultation with the Principal Teacher.
Pupils are provided with their own copies of all text books, including their literature texts and up-to-date Past Paper books.
The following literature texts are allocated to the Higher course:-
Death of a Salesman,
The Great Gatsby,
Nineteen Eighty Four,
All Quiet on the Western Front,
To Kill a Mockingbird (if not studied at Standard Grade),
Lord of the Flies (if not studied at Standard Grade).
Teachers’ own resources,
Selected Scottish Poems for Analysis and Discussion.
Teachers are encouraged to include at least one Scottish text.
Pupils are provided with the Department’s 5th and 6th Year Reading List for guidance in choosing a text for their Specialist Study.
Pupils’ progress towards achievement of the Learning Outcomes of the course is assessed regularly by individual teachers, with some assignments being cohort-marked or moderated, as outlined under Course Content. Internal Assessment requirements are also thus fulfilled. School assessment grades are awarded by individual teachers and, along with written comments, offer indicators of pupil progress and also record success in internally assessed Units.
An Order of Merit is worked out at the end of the session to contribute towards school decisions about academic prizes etc. This is based on the results achieved in the two Prelim examinations.
The course aims to broaden students’ knowledge and appreciation of works of literature and to develop their awareness of how language can be used as a creative medium.
By the end of the course, students should be able to:-
All students who choose to study English at Advanced Higher level are initially taught together in one group.
Ten periods per week are allocated. Six of these (two per text) are devoted to the study of set texts for the Literary Study unit, two to the study of Textual Analysis and two to Creative Writing. At the beginning of October, students drop the study of one set text and choose between Textual Analysis and Creative Writing, thus reducing the amount of class time. Those who wish to continue with Creative Writing will also, by this stage, be expected to have produced a piece of work which reaches an appropriately high standard to justify this choice. This piece will also serve as the first NAB in this unit.
Supervision of dissertation work is done outside class time by an allocated member of the department for each student. Teachers are allocated according to interest in the texts chosen by students so that effective, informed support can be given.
For Literary Study, class time is spent mainly on close reading and discussion of texts, during which students are encouraged to make rough notes. Outside class, students are expected to complete more detailed reading of set texts, appropriate background reading and detailed note-making as well as written assignments to support their studies. It is also normal practice, with Literary Study classes, for students to prepare papers on aspects of the author’s work and to deliver these in the class to their peers. Class time will also be used for practice of Critical Essay writing under controlled conditions, including the completion of the required internally assessed NAB.
Study of set texts and general knowledge of literature is supported by the use of audio and video material where possible and also by the organisation of trips to the theatre, lectures, workshops etc.
Creative Writing will be taught in a workshop situation, with discussion of appropriate models and the students’ own work along with ongoing development of potential folio pieces. First drafts of student work will be produced in class so that they can be assessed as NABs for the internal requirement of this unit.
Textual Analysis will be taught in an interactive way, looking at a range of literature, developing the skills needed for good analysis and using support material from the SQA. Students will be encouraged to develop a broad reading experience outwith the classroom.
The content of each Unit is as follows:-
Unit 1 – Specialist Study;
Students choose two or three texts by the same author, or with themes or aspects of style in common, and write a dissertation on a topic of their own choice in response to them. The work is completed under the guidance of a supervising teacher. A first draft will be produced by the end of the Autumn term.
Unit 2 – Literary Study;
Students study two genres of literature and write critical essays on them in response to previously unseen questions. At the present time, the Prose class studies James Joyce, the Drama class studies Samuel Beckett and the poetry class studies Seamus Heaney and John Donne. A NAB will normally be done in at least one of these by the end of the first term.
Unit 3 – Textual Analysis;
Students study techniques for critical analysis of writing in all genres and write analyses of previously unseen passages. The first NAB will normally be sat shortly after the October half-term. After this, further NABs will be sat as appropriate.
Unit 4 – Creative Writing;
Students study techniques for writing in a range of genres and styles and produce their own pieces. The first NAB will normally be completed by early October, when students will make final decisions about whether or not to continue with this unit.
Pupils are provided with copies of their set texts and the department has a range of critical texts, videos etc. which are used to support their studies.
Textual Analysis and Creative Writing Units are taught using support material provided by the SQA.
All units of the course are internally as well as externally assessed. Students have to pass at least one Critical Essay and one Textual Analysis (where relevant) under test conditions as an integral part of the course and these are marked according to SQA guidelines. Two pieces of creative writing (where relevant) are also internally assessed in this way, and dissertations are assessed as work on them is ongoing.
External assessment involves submission of the Personal Study, completion of an examination Critical Essay on one of the literature set texts and either completion of an examination Textual Analysis or submission of two pieces of Creative Writing.
School assessment grades, including those for reports (in late October), Estimates and Orders of Merit, are all agreed by discussion between those teaching the course.
The Drama Department aims to provide all pupils with opportunities to reach new understanding and appreciation of self, others and the environment through imaginative dramatic experience, while acquiring a range of dramatic skills and techniques. Pupils are encouraged to communicate ideas and feelings through language, expression and movement, in real and imaginary contexts, and develop confidence and self-esteem in their day-to-day interaction with others. Through drama, pupils develop sensitivity towards the feelings, opinions and values of others through purposeful interaction.
The Drama Department offers 5-14 Drama, Standard Grade, Higher Drama and Advanced Higher Drama.
General Drama Aim
In specific accordance with Curriculum for Excellence
Within the drama department, learners are encouraged to learn in health and well being  , be creative, inspired and to enjoy their drama work. Creating and presenting skills will be developed through participation in scripted (or) improvised drama where they will explore real and imaginary situations (to help them understand and share their world). They will also evaluate self, others and technical aspects and scripts all using language, literacy  and numeracy  .
 Learning in health and well being ensures that children and young people develop the knowledge and understanding, skills, capabilities and attributes which they need for mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing now and in the future. See CforE Health and Wellbeing purposes for further details aims/outcomes/features of effective learning and teaching in health and wellbeing.
 There are 3 organisers within the literacy framework: listening and talking, reading and writing. See CforE for further details of aims/outcomes/features and experiences of literacy.
 Pupils should have the confidence and competence in using number which will allow individuals to solve problems, analyse information and make informed decisions based on calculations. See CforE for further details of aims/outcomes/features and experiences of numeracy.